A literature review is the review of the literature around your thesis, hypothesis or research question. A literature review identifies, evaluates and synthesizes the relevant literature within a particular field of research. It highlights what has already been done, what is generally accepted, what is emerging, what is the current state of thinking on the topic and identifies gaps in the research.
You need to define your research problem to search the literature. Defining your research problem will identify what to read, and reading might further define your research problem.
Depending on the type of literature review, it might be selective or comprehensive.
The literature included in your literature review predominantly includes peer-reviewed publications searchable through commercial databases. For example academic journal articles, books and conference proceedings. To avoid publication bias, you should also include grey literature, which is information that is unpublished or not commercially published. For example annual reports, dissertations, blogs, photographs or fact sheets.
Remember to always consult with your research supervisor or lecturer about requirements for your particular literature review.
A literature review can be a part of a larger work or a stand alone work, and a it can be selective or comprehensive.
Adapted from libncsu. (2009, July 30). Literature reviews: An overview for graduate students [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2d7y_r65HU
The process can be broken down into 6 steps as explained in The Literature Review: Six Steps to Success by Lawrence A. Machi and Brenda T. McEvoy, page 5, as demonstrated below.